Mouth cancer cases in the UK reach record high

New figures show mouth cancer rates have rocketed by 58% in the last 10 years as experts urge for better support from the governmentNew figures show mouth cancer rates have rocketed by 58% in the last 10 years as experts urge for better support from the government.

Yesterday marked the start of Mouth Cancer Action Month, sparking calls for a greater awareness of the disease.

Figures from the Oral Health Foundation show that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year – an increase of 97% since 2000.

This is the eleventh year in a row that has seen an increase in cases. This has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Statistics from the UK’s governing health bodies show that 67% of mouth cancers are recorded in men. Additionally, 78% are detected in those over the age of 55.

Mouth cancer affects anybody

Dental professionals have voiced concerns over a lag in screenings as a result of COVID-19. For example, more than three quarters (77%) worried about missing opportunities to identify oral cancers and refer them onwards.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE is chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation. He believes more should be done to raise awareness of the disease.

‘While many cancers are seeing a reduction in the number of people affected, mouth cancer is one of very few that is sadly going the other way,’ he said.

‘Established risk factors like smoking and excessive alcohol have been joined by emerging causes like the human papillomavirus (HPV).

‘This has changed the profile of the disease quite considerably over recent years. Mouth cancer can now affect anybody.’

Biggest challenges

He added: ‘The disease can have a devastating and lasting effect on a person’s life. It can change how somebody speaks, it makes eating and drinking more difficult, and often leads to changes in a person’s physical appearance. Because of this, it also takes a heavy toll on a person’s mental health too.

‘One of the biggest challenges we face regarding mouth cancer is how little educational support it receives from government and public health bodies.

‘As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, we are appealing for your help to improve awareness of the disease. This is so more people are able to recognise the early warning signs.’

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